“A virtual courtroom is created by the use of a suitable video conferencing platform, which the parties will agree and set up in advance of the trial. In the virtual courtroom, the judge, counsel, witnesses, interpreters and transcribers can see and hear each other,” as defined by Clyde & Co law firm.
Rabat – President of the Superior Council of the Judiciary, Mohamed Abdennabaoui, spoke at a national conference on the efficiency of remote court cases in Morocco. The conference was held on Tuesday and themed “Disputes at a distance and guarantees of a fair trial.”
Abdennabaoui underlined the “considerable” efforts made by the Moroccan government and its judges, courts, lawyers, and prosecution officials in organizing the logistics of remote court cases.
Since the start of COVID-19, Morocco has sought to digitize many public institutions. The judicial system held approximately 133,000 trials electronically which led to the release of 12,000 defendants. By offering remote court hearings, the judicial system has limited physical contact between officials and the accused in courts across the country, limiting the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Critics questioned the fairness of remote court cases and argued that defendants would not receive a fair trial.
Abdennabaoui cited article 69 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which states courts have the right to operate “by means of video or audio technology” and is not “inconsistent with the rights of the accused.”
Additionally, the president cited article 46 (paragraph 18) of the Anti-Corruption Convention and the Second Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, which forces courts to afford the accused with the “widest measure of mutual legal assistance.”
Aside from mitigating the risk of COVID-19 transmission, the president spoke about the unique opportunities of remote court cases in Morocco, such as protecting witnesses and reducing the burden on Moroccan taxpayers that fund court officials and security services for in-person trials.
Rabat courts try nearly 800 detainees daily with Casablanca trying more than 1,200.
Morocco’s Minister of Justice, the President of the General Prosecutor’s Office, the General Delegate of the Prison and Reintegration Administration, the President of Morocco’s National Human Rights Council, and the President of the Moroccan Bar Association attended the conference and reiterated support for the continuance of remote court cases.